After graduating from Texas Tech in 2009, Braden Gruhlkey had to make a tough choice: would he be an ag teacher, or would he pursue the difficult and risky lifestyle of being a farmer?
How It All Began
Braden and his two younger brothers, Brittan and Cameron, grew up on a farm in Wildorado, Texas, just west of Amarillo. Growing up on the farm with his dad and brothers, Braden said he never felt like he was just a helper. His dad made him and his brothers feel like one day, the farmland would be theirs if they wanted it—and they did want it. Today, Braden farms in the Wildorado, Center Point, Hartley and Dalhart areas.
While student teaching in college, Braden realized very quickly that education was not the career path he wanted to follow. Actually, from an early age, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and keep the farming tradition alive. Together with his brothers, they scraped up what money they had saved, and with some help from their parents, bought their first farm while Braden was a sophomore in college.
“I always knew I wanted to farm so I probably wasn’t going to use my degree,” Braden said, “but I thought it might be a good idea to have something to fall back on if anything happened.”
Braden said working in the agricultural industry is a tough job that not everyone is cut out to do. When it comes to farming, it is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job with free weekends and paid vacation days. He said during harvest season, for a month, he will not get home until 11 p.m. or later every night.
“You think it’s going to slow down, and it doesn’t,” Braden said. “You just have to keep on going.”
Braden’s lifestyle is not easy work or an easy profit, and although farming is his passion, he said he is in the business to make money and provide for his family. Braden grows corn, cotton, wheat, seed milo, commercial milo and sorghum silage on his farms, but corn and cotton are his main crops.
Growing corn as one of his main crops, Braden decided to run for the Texas Corn Producers Board and has been a part of the organization for about a year. He said he did this because he wanted to learn more about ag policy, the organization’s educational efforts, and any issues that may affect him as a corn farmer.
Stephanie Pruitt, communications director for TCPB, said the organization works to make sure young farmers like Braden have the programs and resources, like the checkoff board, they need to be able to go back to the farm.
“The Gruhlkey brothers have really pushed the conservation envelope on their farms to make sure they’re making the land and their resources last for future generations,” Pruitt said.
A Family Affair
Upon graduating from college, Braden met his wife, Lauren, at a church event in Amarillo. After one year of dating, Braden and Lauren got married. Today, they live in Amarillo, have two young boys and are expecting twins in April. Lauren is a stay-at-home mom and stays plenty busy keeping up with the kids and Braden. Braden said having only one income can be difficult at times, but this is the life he and his wife have always wanted.
“We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us,” he said. “Because what do you know? We’ve made it work.”
Farming is not only hard on the farmer alone. It demands continuous patience and support from the family back at home. Each day is a new day often requiring a full 15 hours of hard, physical labor. Braden said his wife sacrifices a lot while staying at home with their children while he works.
“I don’t know a whole lot of women who would deal with this lifestyle,” he said. “I am blessed to have her, that’s for sure.”
The three Gruhlkey brothers are all married with children and work on the farm together almost every day. Braden said when they began farming, the brothers decided they would be more successful together than apart—and the partnership has worked in their favor thus far. Working with family on a daily basis has its challenges, but Braden said it is nice to have his brothers around when he has questions or needs advice. Braden said he and his brothers are very transparent and honest with each other and that is what makes their partnership work.
“My brothers are pretty much my best friends and that makes it work,” he said. “We’ve always gotten along.”
Brittan Gruhlkey, who is the middle brother, said going back to the farm was always his goal and he would not change his life for anything else. Brittan said growing up on the farm with his brothers taught them hard work and work ethic. Like his older brother, Braden, Brittan knew he would farm after college, despite knowing the risks and hard work it would require.
We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us. Braden Gruhlkey
Brittan said fewer people are returning to the farm because of these risks, but without taking risks, there are no rewards.
“It’s a different type of work that a lot of people are not willing to do,” Brittan said. “The amount of time and effort and risk it takes to farm is a lot.”
Braden said their father, Bill, has had a big impact on his life on and off the farm. Besides sparking his interest in farming, Braden said his dad taught he and his brothers work ethic, honesty and how to do things around the farm.
“We’ve learned a ton from Dad about everything to do with farming—planting, irrigating, and just the whole aspect of it all,” he said. “He was always good at telling us why he did this and why he didn’t do that, and we always listened.”
During planting and harvesting season, Braden said he and his brothers come together to help each other and their dad on their farms. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into being a farmer, but Braden Gruhlkey has proven that if you love what you do and have a supportive family by your side, being a farmer is pretty darn great.
“It’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, but I think that in the end, we’re going to be all right.”